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NIH Public Access Policy

The NIH Public Access Policy went into effect in April 2008 with the goal of making the results of research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) accessible to the public. Full details on the policy may be found at the policy website; the purpose of this page is to provide only a summary of some key features and requirements of the policy that directly affect faculty, students, and staff in the Department. If you are an investigator on a NIH grant, a student who is supported on a research assistantship or traineeship on a NIH grant, or a staff member who deals with faculty and students funded on NIH grants, you should read this in full and then visit these websites and familiarize yourself with the policy.

If you are not funded by NIH, do not think that this does not apply to you; similar requirements will be coming to other funding agencies, as directed in a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy memo released in February 2013.

What does the policy require? The policy requires that all papers accepted in a peer-reviewed journal that were supported all or in part by NIH funding be deposited in an archive called PubMed Central (PMC). PMC contains the full text of all such papers in a common format, and the full text is fully accessible to the public. Papers must be deposited within three months of publication. A paper deposited in PMC is assigned a unique PMCID number, which is used to identify it (see below).

What is the difference between PubMed and PubMedCentral? PubMed and PubMed Central are NOT THE SAME. PubMed is an archive of citations and abstracts of virtually every article published in health sciences-related journals. It does not contain full text, and is meant only as a bibliographic research resource. PubMed Central contains the full text and is meant to make research results accessible to the public. Accordingly, if a paper is indexed in PubMed and has a PMID number, this DOES NOT satisfy the public access policy. The PMID and PMCID number are NOT THE SAME, so if a paper has a PMID number, this does not mean it has a PMCID number. A paper that satisfies the public access policy MUST have a PMCID number.

Why is the PMCID number so important? As of July 1, 2013, principal investigators (PIs) of NIH grants must report publications resulting from the grants in their annual progress reports or grant renewal applications using a system called My NCBI. Papers must be reported and linked electronically to the progress report or renewal application using the PMCID number (or something called the NIHMSID number; see below). If a paper is not in PMC and does not have a PMCID or NIHMSID number, it cannot be reported. Furthermore, if a paper that was supported by NIH funding is not reported, it is noncompliant and is in violation of the public access policy and federal law (see below).

What happens if a paper is not deposited within the three month limit? Unlike NSF, NIH awards funds on a year-to-year basis. E.g., for a three year grant, the first year of funding is awarded initially. Two months before the start of the second year, the PI is required to submit a progress report; if this is satisfactory, the second year of funding will be awarded, and similarly for the third year. If a paper is deposited outside this limit, My NCBI will flag it in the progress report as being noncompliant. If a paper is not deposited at all and is flagged by NIH, it is also noncompliant. As of July 1, 2013, if a PI submits a progress report that contains noncompliant paper(s) or otherwise has papers that have not been reported, the next year's funds will be withheld, and the PI will be required to submit an explanation. Only if the explanation is accepted will the funds be awarded.

How are papers deposited in PMC and PMCID numbers assigned? Papers are deposited through a web portal called the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system. The final manuscript version of the paper, i.e., the final version prepared by the authors and accepted by the journal, is the version that should be deposited. It is generally a violation of most copyright agreements for the final publisher's pdf version, i.e., the typeset version created by the publisher, to be deposited. If there is supplementary material, it must also be deposited.

  There are two main ways deposits can take place, described on the next page.